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LCQ22: Protection of foreign domestic helpers

     Following is a question by Hon Emily Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):


     A study report released by a human rights organisation on March 15 of this year pointed out that among the foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) surveyed, (i) 17 per cent of the respondents displayed all the indicators required to be counted in forced labour (among them, 14 per cent were in such situations as a result of human trafficking), (ii) 66.3 per cent of the respondents showed strong signs of exploitation, (iii) all respondents worked more than 70 hours a week on average, and (iv) over one-third of them were not allowed by their employers to take statutory rest days.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities have responded to the aforesaid study findings; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(2) whether the authorities will conduct a survey on the situation of employers disallowing their FDHs to take rest days; whether they will step up the publicity among FDHs to promote such a right and encourage them to lodge complaints in case they are treated unreasonably?



     Having consulted the Security Bureau, my reply to the questions raised by Hon Emily Lau is provided below:

(1) and (2) The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has all along been firmly committed to protecting the rights and benefits of over 340 000 foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong and to ensuring that Hong Kong remains a safe and attractive place of work for FDHs. Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world which grants the same statutory protection and rights, which include, inter alia, at least one rest day in every period of seven days, statutory holidays and paid annual leave, to FDHs under the labour law as local employees. FDHs also enjoy additional protection under the government-prescribed Standard Employment Contract. To strengthen protection of FDHs, the Labour Department (LD) has stepped up its efforts on various fronts. Our commitment and efforts in protecting FDHs have also been recognised by the Hong Kong-based consulates-general (CGs) of the governments of FDHs' home countries.

     The Government attaches great importance to safeguarding FDHs'right to at least one rest day in every period of seven days. Employers who do not grant such rest day to their FDHs violate the Employment Ordinance. The Government appeals to any aggrieved FDHs to file reports with the authorities as soon as practicable and to act as prosecution witness. LD will thoroughly investigate all reported cases and promptly take out prosecution if there is sufficient evidence to ensure that justice be done.

     LD has all along been enhancing FDHs' awareness of their rights and benefits as well as of the channels which they may seek assistance through various means. In addition to our publicity efforts such as distributing to FDHs information packs related to FDH employment rights and benefits at the Hong Kong airport, staging information kiosks at popular gathering places of FDHs during their rest days and placing regular advertisements in newspapers of FDHs' mother languages, etc., LD also maintains close collaboration with governments of FDHs' home countries and their consulates in Hong Kong, and participates in the welcoming programmes organised by the consulates in order to enhance the awareness of FDHs who first come to work in Hong Kong about their statutory rights and benefits, as well as channels to seek assistance. To step up the publicity efforts, a one-stop online information platform of FDHs and a "Do's" and "Don'ts" leaflet by LD for FDHs, employers and employment agencies relating to employment of FDHs were released in April this year. Both are available in major FDHs' mother languages (including Tagalog, Indonesian and soon in Thai). Insofar as the employment rights of rest day is concerned, the leaflet states clearly that FDHs must be provided with at least one rest day in every period of seven days, during which employers must not compel their FDHs to work. The Government will continue its work on various fronts, including regular ministerial meetings with governments of FDHs' home countries, regular liaison with their consulates in Hong Kong for joint efforts and information sharing, and mounting a whole range of education and publicity activities to afford better protection to FDHs.

     In respect of trafficking in persons, Hong Kong's comprehensive legal framework, rigorous enforcement efforts, independent judiciary, rule of law and a clean government place us on a solid footing to combat human trafficking and related offences. Hundreds of our law enforcement officers are trained with specialised victim identification skills and relevant subject knowledge yearly.  The Hong Kong Police Force and the Immigration Department are revising their victim identification guidelines to facilitate thorough investigation and to ensure that victims are provided with appropriate assistance. The law enforcement agencies will take all trafficking reports seriously and maintain close liaison with foreign CGs and non-governmental organisations with a view to bringing human trafficking criminals to justice.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:06


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